In a rare moment of journalistic honesty, members of the press have publicly criticized the Biden administration in a letter for imposing onerous restrictions on journalists seeking to attend venues in the White House. Since President Joe Biden took office, the activist media has rarely criticized his performance and has been lambasted by critics for serving as a Ministry of Propaganda of sorts for the Democratic Party. But now, it appears Mr. Biden has gone so far even his loyal allies in the Fourth Estate are taking him to task. But will their cries be heeded?
The letter, which was signed by dozens of notable reporters, urged the White House to “re-open all of the traditional venues for presidential remarks at the White House, including the East Room and the South Court Auditorium, for any reporter admitted to the White House campus.”
The reporters were referring to the White House instituting a practice during the COVID-19 pandemic in which it pre-screened journalists wishing to ask President Biden questions. The procedure has frustrated many reporters, mainly because the administration continues to implement it even though the coronavirus does not pose as dire a threat as it had previously. “Biden aides have refused to tell the Correspondents’ Association the selection criteria for presidential events and individual reporters have received an array of conflicting explanations, resulting in a widespread belief that the practice is meant to shape the variety of questions presented to the president,” according to The New York Post.
The letter, which was addressed to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, argued that “[t]he current method of allowing a limited number of reporters into these events is not only restrictive and antithetical to the concept of a free press, but it has been done without any transparent process into how reporters are selected to cover these events.”
The reporters continued: “We are all left wondering who is making these decisions and what are the criteria on which they are based?”
Members of the press stressed that the White House’s refusal to “be candid and transparent” about the criteria for selecting reporters who will be allowed to attend the president’s remarks “undermines President Biden’s credibility when he says he is a defender of the First Amendment.”
The author of the letter issued a more pointed criticism when he insisted that it should not only be reporters the administration likes that are given access. He wrote:
“Let us be candid. Our job is not to be liked, nor is it to be concerned about whether or not you like what we ask. A reporter’s ability to question the most powerful man in our government shouldn’t be discretionary. The administration’s continued efforts to limit access to the president cannot be defended. Any notion that space is ‘limited’ is not supported by the fact that every other president before Biden (including Trump) allowed full access to the very same spaces without making us fill out a request form prior to admittance.”
Both Jean-Pierre and former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki have denied knowing how the process for selecting reporters works. However, they have insisted that it did not involve “blacklisting” certain outlets or journalists, according to The New York Post, which also noted: “Another journalist heard that the decisions were made in part based on the size of an outlet’s audience and that there was some sort of rotation, though that too does not appear accurate as months passed with certain outlets chosen more often than others with no apparent relation to size.”
Most of those who pay attention to politics probably didn’t have reporters writing a letter critical of the Biden administration on their bingo card, but here we are. Most of the activist media’s coverage of the White House has been positive and rarely critical. Indeed, the Fourth Estate has been far more antagonistic toward Biden’s critics than toward the president himself.
A Pew Research poll conducted during the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency noted a stark difference between how the press covered Biden and former President Donald Trump. When it came to the former, it explained that “Overall, 65% of the stories were framed around the new president’s policy agenda and ideology, compared with 35% around character and leadership.”
By contrast, the study also found that during the first few months of the Trump presidency, “74% of all stories were oriented around his character and leadership, compared with only about one-quarter (26%) framed around his ideology and policy agenda.”
The study also found: “Another significant difference in their coverage is that while the negative Biden stories modestly outnumbered the positive ones, negative stories about Trump exceeded positive ones by four-to-one.”
It is certainly unexpected for the media to publicly criticize President Biden in any substantive manner. Even though this president has avoided scrutiny from the press as much as possible, complaints from the Fourth Estate have been rather sparse – especially in public. But this should not be taken as a sign that the activist media is beginning to turn on the president. Sure, they might be frustrated by the White House’s lack of transparency, but with the Democrats being in such dire straits, it is unlikely they will ramp up criticism of this administration. Still, the fact that they were willing to hold him accountable in this instance does not exactly bode well for the president.